That something is not right at the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, now 12 years old, should be easy to tell.
Something is not right when a taxpayer funded revolving fund meant to increase economic opportunities for the youth and create employment is only only able to disburse less than Sh1b per year, this in a country where 70 per cent – read at least 32 million people – are youths.
Something is not right when up to Sh500 million is lost – most of it not to the youth that borrowed it, but to intermediaries (read brokers) only to loan it back to the youth as their own.
Something is not right when a youth fund trusts these brokers with billions of shillings on the promise that these will be lent out to the youth, only for the loan sharks to lend the cash to the youth at up to 30 per cent per annum interest.
Something is wrong when the only people who seem to benefit from the Youth Fund are not the youth themselves, but very unyouthful brokers and cartels.
Something is not right when the only time a youth fund is on the news is when some manager has been shown the door, nay, when very few managers have been able to complete their full terms in office without rumours of underhand deals.Something is not right when the only time the fund is on the news is not for how much more money has been disbursed to the youth out there to set up businesses amid growing unemployment; not for efforts it is making to rope in more youth or find out why many are shying away from applying for the cash, but for a simmering row over salaries.
Formed five years later, Uwezo Fund has more to show for itself than the youth fund. So does the Women Enterprise Fund.
It is not hard to know where the rains started beating the fund.
First, it was a big mistake to let in intermediaries between the youth and the fund. This let in crooks eager to make a quick coin by simply playing brokers.
Second, it was a bigger mistake rushing to give youth money to set up businesses before teaching them how to set and run successful ventures. This was akin to rushing to give the youth fishing gear before teaching them how to fish.
As for where the buck stop, that is not too difficult to tell. Someone must be held to account for more than a decade of false promises.
Which is why anyone at the fourth floor of Rennaisance Corporate Park in Nairobi’s Upperhill whose conscience is not clear should not ask for who the bell tolls – it tolls for you.
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